What Is a Summons and Complaint in Colorado?

by | Apr 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

A Summons Is A Court Order. Ignore It At Your Peril.

Receiving a summons and complaint from a Colorado criminal court means you are facing misdemeanor or petty offense charges. You also face the possibility of jail time, substantial fines, and other consequences if prosecutors obtain your conviction.

Because so much is at stake, you should treat a summons and complaint as serious by immediately contacting a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options and determine the best course of action.

One thing you shouldn’t do? Ignore those documents and fail to respond or appear in court as ordered. This course of action will make an already precarious situation even worse.

Summons and Complaint = Misdemeanor or Petty Offense Charges

Colorado has three broad categories of criminal offenses: felonies, misdemeanors, and petty offenses. Felonies are more “serious” crimes in that they usually involve harsher penalties than misdemeanors or pretty offenses. Incarceration for a felony will be in a Colorado state prison, while a misdemeanor conviction could lead to time spent in a county jail. These offenses are distinguished not only by penalties but also by how prosecutors initially file the charges against individuals accused of committing a crime.

In felony cases, criminal charges are officially brought in one of three ways:

  1. via a grand jury indictment;
  2. the district attorney’s filing of an “information” with the district court outlining the charges; or
  3. by prosecutors filing a felony complaint in the district court.

After the initiation of charges, the court will either issue an arrest warrant for the accused or a summons directing them to appear in court on a specific date.

For misdemeanors or petty offenses, charges come as a summons and complaint. This document will include the following:

  • information about the alleged offense, including the date and time of the offense;
  • the name of the law enforcement officer who issued the summons;
  • the name of the prosecutor who will be handling the case; and
  • a specific date, time, and location for the accused to appear for an initial hearing.

At this hearing, the accused can enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads guilty, they will then receive their sentence, ending the case. If they plead not guilty or no contest, the case will proceed to trial at a later date.

Related: What to Know About Court-Appointed Public Defenders

How Are These Documents Served?

Prosecutors can serve a summons and complaint for a misdemeanor or petty offense in several ways:

  1. Giving a copy to the defendant personally, such as an officer giving a handwritten summons at the time of the citation.
  2. Leaving a copy with a person over the age of 18 at the defendant’s usual place of habitation.
  3. Mailing a copy by registered mail, return receipt requested, to the defendant’s last known address not less than 14 days before the court appearance date outlined in the summons.

What Happens If You Don’t Appear At The Hearing Set In The Summons?

A summons is a court order, and El Paso County judges do not take kindly to court orders being ignored or disregarded. Failure to appear at the hearing or pay the fine in a timely manner (if that is an option) will result in the presiding judge charging you with contempt of court and issuing a bench warrant for your arrest.

If you cannot appear in court on the date indicated, you may be able to obtain a new appearance date. In El Paso County, contact the court clerk to request a new date as soon as possible, but definitely before the hearing.

James - after receiving a summons and complaint, seek legal counselWhat Should You Do After Receiving a Criminal Summons and Complaint?

After receiving a criminal summons and complaint in El Paso County, the most important thing you can do is contact a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney to review the documents, evaluate your case, and advise you of your options. Sometimes, flaws or errors in the paperwork can provide a basis for having the matter dismissed.

The Criminal Defense Attorney You Hire Can Make All the Difference to Your Freedom

If you are having heart surgery, you want to ensure that your surgeon has the experience dealing with your type of heart issue, and has a track record of successful procedures and happy patients. You understand that your life is on the line.

Likewise, when you are facing criminal charges in Southern Colorado, you want to ensure that the defense attorney you hire has the experience, tenacity, and track record to give you the best chances of beating the charges and returning to your life.

The Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers at James Newby Law understand that there is no such thing as a “minor” criminal conviction, even for misdemeanors. Our tenacious lawyers will evaluate your case, advise you of your options, and develop a strategy to get you the best possible result.

Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.

James Newby

James Newby

James Newby is a criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs and the managing attorney of the criminal justice law firm James Newby Law. James got into law because of a deep-rooted passion for helping good people that may have made a poor choice that could have lasting consequences.